REMARKS BY THE GOVERNOR OF IMO STATE, RT. HON. EMEKA IHEDIOHA, CON, AT IMO STAKEHOLDERS LUNCHEON WITH THE GOVERNOR, GOVERNMENT HOUSE, OWERRI, IMO STATE.

TOGETHER REBUILDING IMO TO GREATNESS

REMARKS BY THE GOVERNOR OF IMO STATE, RT. HON. EMEKA IHEDIOHA, CON, AT IMO STAKEHOLDERS LUNCHEON WITH THE GOVERNOR, GOVERNMENT HOUSE, OWERRI, IMO STATE.

DECEMBER 26, 2019

PROTOCOL

Ndi Imo, Ndi Oma. We are not Abuja (the Federal capital). We are not Lagos (the commercial capital). Neither are we Port Harcourt, Rivers State (the Crude oil capital). We are Imo State. I am, sincerely, very elated to welcome you all home for this Christmas. We thank God for the journey mercies He granted all of us, especially those of you who travelled long distances to make it home.

1.2 You may wish to recall that at my inauguration, I pledged my commitment to running an open, transparent and collective administration as well as to launch a concerted action to repair our collapsed infrastructure and repair the breaches on public utilities. Others include working with other arms of government to ensure checks and balances, guarantee peace and security, and entrench due process in the machinery of governance. I also promised to build human capacity through the promotion of technical education and Information Technology, especially among our youths.

1.3 We have been seven months in this journey and by the strength and enablement of God, we have not reneged in our stated mission.

1.4 The greatest asset of our State is not in its government and not in its material endowments, but in its people. You are the people that give Imo State its identity.

2.0 LANDMARK ACHIEVEMENTS

2.1 As your stewards, we considered it necessary to give you an update on the progress we have made towards the fulfilment of our promises and challenges of the State. We laid out a vision to become one of the top three most developed economies in Nigeria by 2025 and ranked within Africa’s top ten economies by 2030. We also set out to achieve this by leveraging our abundant human capital and natural resources to build an economy anchored on good governance, wealth creation, value for money and rule of law.

2.2 These have yielded positive results. Recently (November), the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), rated Imo State the Least Corrupt State in their 2nd Corruption Survey. I would like to acknowledge many of you who called to congratulate the government and our people on this positive development. Similarly, our country’s leading economic newspaper, BusinessDay ranked our State as the fastest growing economy in Nigeria in 2019.

2.3 About the same period also, Imo State was appraised the Best Overall Performing State in ICT Development by the National Council on Communication and Digital Economy. Our comprehensive effort to deploy technology as an enabler for effective service delivery is yielding positive results. We have carried out trainings of our youths and women, set up two ICT hubs in the state while the Digital Imo Project is on course.

2.4 We are not unmindful of the huge burden laid on us by these outstanding ratings and the challenge of sustaining a positive public perception. We are, therefore, committed to redoubling our efforts to hold our performance high-grounds. Ours is a partnership between the people, the Executive, the various arms and levels of government. We are enjoying a robust working relationship with both the Legislature and Judiciary. Our positive engagement with the State House of Assembly has resulted in the passage of seventeen (17) Executive Bills within this short period, twelve (12) of which have been signed into law while the appropriation act and five others will be signed tomorrow noon.

2.5 We have reduced the cost of governance by trimming down the number of ministries from 32 to 18 and introduced the Treasury Single Account (TSA) into our revenue collection and accounting system. This has put paid to the over 260 government accounts we met. As a result, we have stemmed revenue leakages and significantly increased our Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) from what we met of about N250million a month to more than a billion naira this month of December. This is just the beginning.

2.6 We have restored effective Budget presentation and created a separate Ministry for Budget and Planning and the preparation was participatory. We recently signed the Open Governance Partnership with a view to ensuring transparency in our public sector transactions. In addition, the state has revitalized its moribund Bureau of Public Procurement and Intelligence (BPPI) Law 2010.

2.7 Our newly created Ease of Doing Business Desk is up-and-running and the Imo State Investments Promotion Agency, ISIPA, has been reenergised. Just last week, we performed the ground-breaking ceremony for a 1000 Housing Unit Rebuild Imo Estate in Azara-Owalla in Emekuku, being undertaken in under a Public-Private-Partnership arrangement.

2.8 In the same vein, we are carrying out broad reforms in the State Civil Service. We have restored payment of 100 per cent salaries to workers. In addition, the State government has concluded a pension verification exercise which has flushed out ghost pensioner’s saving us more than N281 Million. Today, our pensioners are being paid and treated with respect. The revitalized States Pensions Board is perfecting the ongoing reforms. As a follow-up we are conducting a biometric verification of the workforce.

2.9 Another dimension in our reform process is that we have revitalized the Local Governments for optimal performance. Today, they are receiving their full statutory allocations directly. Under our constitutional oversight, our 27 Local Governments are constructing standard secretariat buildings to provide adequate accommodation and conducive working environment for workers. Instructively, one of them is all ready for commissioning tomorrow in Ahiazu Mbaise within so short a time. We are also constructing new mini-stadia complexes or upgrading old ones in all the Local Governments, to promote sports, talent-hunt and healthy well-being at the grassroots. Apart from promoting unity, this will significantly reduce idleness among the youths and serve as revenue booster.
2.10 We have commenced extensive road rehabilitation projects involving over 30 road networks simultaneously, both within and around Owerri Metropolis. The State has also taken up the rehabilitation of collapsed portions of the five (5) Federal Roads leading in and outside Imo State.

2.11 Upon assumption of office, we mobilized N500Million counterpart funding to the World Bank, thereby attracting N13.5 billion from the Bank, under its Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP). Currently, we are constructing 58 rural road projects covering 380.7 kilometres across the 25 Local Government areas under this programme.

2.12 The State’s Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) Programme is on high gear. This involves the reconstruction and modernization of the four major technical colleges in the State located at Owerri, Ahiara, Okporo-orlu and Osu Mbano. We hope to harness the critical place of technical skills in entrepreneurship development and inculcate a skill-set that could be exported both nationally and internationally.

2.13 We also intend to rehabilitate our schools from primary to the tertiary levels. Accordingly, a machinery has been activated to close the manpower gaps in our schools while various visitation panels have been set up to look into ways we can overhaul our tertiary institutions for quality, discipline and affordability.

2.14 We promised to work towards achieving Universal Health Coverage for Imolites. To this effect, we have earmarked 1 per cent of the consolidated revenue fund for healthcare and have re-launched the Imo Health Insurance Scheme. We have also reinforced our Imo State Hospital Management Board to reposition our health institutions for effective health services delivery.

2.15 We are poised to achieve food security and agricultural revolution in the State in line with our stated policy. We launched a Youth-in-Agriculture programme and have trained over 600 youths in various forms of agricultural production and agro-business skills. The Rice Mill in Ihitte-Uboma has been revived with Arondiuzogu mills coming up next January. This Christmas, many homes in Imo State would be eating rice planted, processed and packaged in Imo State. The state’s ADAPALM has been is being revived while we have brought a viable investor for the Avutu Poultry Farm. In another breath, we are partnering with various autonomous communities to plant over 4 Million oil palm seedlings beginning from next year. We believe that oil palm still holds a great potential for building a strong industrial base for the State in the coming years.

2.16 Our efforts at promoting investment is yielding positive results. We allocated land to AfrExim Bank, in Owerri, to build its regional quality assurance centre for the South-East and South-South zones. The facility is estimated at over $50million (N18Billion) and would surely boost our economy and commercial profile. Today also, we have six airlines now operating different routes to and from the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, making us the third busiest airport in Nigeria. We have also made the security of lives and property, our priority. Our Operation Iron Gate is in full force. Like I promised, we have set up machinery to fully leverage our oil and gas potentials, in particular, proper harnessing of the Asa North Gas Project. To this end I have set up a high-level Imo Oil and Gas Government Liaison Committee (I-GLC), to midwife the process.

2.17 We have received rave reviews for our works at the rehabilitation of the Dan Anyiam Stadium, the Imo Grasshoppers International Handball Stadium and Oguta Lake Resort – where we are commencing the construction of an Olympic size swimming pool among others. We just concluded our Imo Sports Festival which has been abandoned for some years now. Our indomitable Grasshoppers International Women Handball Team have been revived, and would be representing Nigeria in a tournament in Morocco next year.

2.18. When the Honourable Minister of Youths and Sports Development visited Imo State recently, he was impressed with our progress and promised to market the Imo model to other states of the federation. Notably, this December, we revived the abandoned States Sports Festival where 3 bright talents were discovered. Encouraged by the successes, potentials and realities, we are bidding to host the 13th National Sports Festival, in 2022. After considering the huge benefits of hosting the games, we raised a star-studded bid committee to take up the gauntlet.

3.0 BUILDING A FUTURE BEYOND CRUDE OIL

3.1 Umu nnem, from the debate on climate change and the global race for clean energy, we need not be told that the days of crude oil are numbered. “Anaghi akara ochi nti, si agha esula.” We must together prepare Imo for a future without crude oil. Government alone cannot do it. This is because of the huge salary and pension bills we have to pay. Indeed, we spend 73 percent of our federally allocated revenue on staff salaries and pension. We are confronted with disaster in the infrastructure front. The State is saddled with the responsibility of providing quality and affordable education and healthcare for our people, as well as meet up with other social obligations

3.2 Our strategy here, therefore, involves laying the foundation for the industrialization of the State through private sector participation and building the capacity of our youths by inculcating in them globally competitive skills. We are also promoting both domestic and Foreign Direct Investments through strategies of economic diplomacy abroad and canvassing for local industrialists at the home front. We have designed a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) comprehensive strategy to partner with interested investors under various models which include: Equity Participation, Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) and Build Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) models. The State, is also moving to take advantage of its strategic position as a confluence state in the old Eastern Region to become an attractive tourism and investment hub.

3.3 My dear distinguished Imolites, we believe that with our estimated 1.2 million Diaspora population, Imo State is a power- house of Diaspora resources. We are thus emboldened to leverage our Diaspora capital for economic development as in the sea-turtle initiative of China. Diaspora investment could do for Imo State, what it did for the China, India and the Asian Tigers. Consequently, we are hosting a Diaspora Summit in January 3, 2020.

4.0 WAY FORWARD

4.1 Many of you here are high net-worth personalities. We invite you to partner with us towards the development of Imo State. As we search for outside investment, it is pertinent that we rally our home potentials. The State is open to take advantage of your business and global networks to make Imo one of the leading investment hub in the country, perhaps after Lagos, Abuja and Portharcourt.

4.2 We have revived the Ahiajoku Lectures and upgraded it to an institute. We just finished this 2019 edition. It was a rich cocktail of insightful colloquium and lectures. Our eminent scholar, Prof. Michael Echeruo, was the guest speaker, forty years after delivering the inaugural lecture.

4.3 In his seminal lecture, Prof. MJC Echeruo recalled the driving Spirit behind the South East at the end of the war. According to him, they had confidence that “a renaissance of spirit would drive the unspent energies exhibited in the war effort into new productive directions, we believe …would transform Igbo land.”

4.4 At the colloquium Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa fired another critical salvo when, called for the Aku Ruo Ulo Project. He appealed to Igbo industrialists and business men to embrace deliberate efforts to demonstrate significant business presence back home.

4.5 We therefore appeal to Imo industrialists to heed these clarion calls. We are ready to provide the land and the enabling environment to make this possible. Nature indeed, has endowed us with a strategic location, rich and fertile soil, abundant human capacity and an enterprising population.

4.6 At our recent expanded Exco retreat in Oguta, I accepted the proposal to set up a Rebuild Imo Volunteers Network of Professionals, who wish to contribute to the development of Imo State. Today, this body would be constituted.

4.7 God, certainly, has showered us with His grace. What remains is for us to rise up and take our place. To paraphrase Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s words, This is our finest hour.

5.0 CONCLUSION

5.1 Ndi Imo, Ndi Oma, our Rebuild Imo Mission is on the move. We invite all well-meaning Imo leaders from all walks of life to join hands to Rebuild Imo and to restore our days of glory.

5.2 I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

5.3 Long Live Imo State.

Imo bu nke anyi nile.

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